‘Fantastic hands' - But no evidence: The construction of expertise by users of CAM

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Both in the Scandinavian welfare states and elsewhere the private CAM market acts as a health provider
alongside the state. There is very limited established scientific evidence for the effects of treatments and
often they are non-authorised. How, then, do users construct and attribute expertise to CAM practitioners?
Drawing on 90 in-depth interviews with 30 Danish CAM users of reflexology or acupuncture,
three aspects of expertise emerged from the empirical analysis of how the CAM users ascribe legitimacy
to the therapies involved. Thus, expertise is: (i) embodied and produced by means other than those used
in evidence-based knowledge or abstract expert systems; (ii) constructed by making a clear-cut division
between the roles and responsibilities of the practitioner and the user; and (iii) constructed on the basis
of specific training or education that practitioners have achieved. The expertise that the users seek and
construct is not necessarily available, and users therefore consult many different kinds of experts. In
doing so, they may themselves become the ‘experts’ in heterogeneous, context-specific dimensions of
knowledge. In conclusion we propose further studies of what lay people can offer to a democratised and
customer-sensitive system of health care as an area of inquiry that holds promise for providing
a sociological approach to the domain of expertise.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1068-1075
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ID: 13998649